Any veteran reader of Rant and Roll will know that I have a storied history with the gym. In fact, the first time I was freshly pressed (way, way back in 2012!) it was because of a post about how I both loved and loathed my (then) gym.
However, when I suffered a small tear in my right calf muscle last fall, and rejoined the land of the gym dwellers, I had no idea how much I would love incorporating the gym into my early mornings! This month on Live Out There, I wrote about how you too can learn to love hitting the gym before the sun rises, and how to get the most out of your workout.
I used to balk at the idea of getting up and exercising before work. My line of reasoning? I had to wake up early enough, so why the heck would I ever choose to rise before necessity strictly demanded it of me? Sleep, after all, is a hugely valuable commodity and I was fiercely proud of my ability to distill my morning routine down to the bare minimum. At my best I could get my (very presentable) self out of the door in twenty minutes or less.
But then I moved to the lovely little Hamlet known as New Westminster and began taking the skytrain into my job every day. At the station closest to my house there is Dynamic Fitness, a lovely, evenly priced gym, and last autumn, as I nursed a torn calf muscle, I took out a membership. I thought I would give a pre-work workout a try, just to see if I could hack an early morning sweat. I could use the gym’s showers and leave my stuff in a locker during the day. What did I have to lose?
Continue reading my top tips for transitioning to early morning workouts here.
Hey kids! I recently started blogging with the awesome outdoor apparel and adventure company Live Out There and I am very excited to share with you my pieces as they are being published. I recently penned a post about why sometimes adventuring “bear by yourself” (as my mother would say) trumps grinding it out as a group. I hope you enjoy!
Go Your Own Way: The Best Kept Secrets of a Solo Adventure
There are many great things about adventuring with a loved one.
A plus-one means having a companion in arms for when the going gets tough; it means greater variety in food and snacks; and probably best of all, it means having someone to share in the epic views of a crested peak or conquered valley.
But the thing is, trekking and exploring solo is just as awesome and awe-inspiring as going out as a pair. In fact, I would argue that it is actually better.
First. I implore you all to listen to this song as you read this entry:
I am seeing Yukon Blonde next Friday night in celebration of my 31st year living amongst all of you lovers and lunatics, and in preparation, I’ve had this tune on mega replay.
I hope you enjoy.
Today I was meaning to venture back to Buntzen Lake (land of lost toenails and forgotten sandwiches), and run 24 kilometers. However, when I awoke this morning my heart was feeling a little heavy, and the sky outside was hanging so terribly low. Knowing that this malaise would not bode well for an incredibly long and tough training session on unfamiliar terrain, I thought instead to keep to a route I have completed many times prior.
There would be nothing wrong with saving the trails for another day.
When I set out to run the 19 kilometer loop from my house (I run to Edmonds Skytrain, across the Queensborough Bridge, down the Quay and home), the temperature read 3 degrees, and it was raining.
Everything about this was manageable. I love long runs in the rain, and like I wrote previously, I am trying to acclimatize myself to running in colder temperatures.
This would be good practice, and thus, I forwent a toque and gloves.
The first indication that I might have misjudged my need for these accoutrements, was about two kilometers into the route when it really started to rain.
I kept imagining the raindrops to be infinitesimal water balloons exploding on my face the moment they made contact with my skin. There were even a few times when I questioned whether or not I was actually crying, because I could feel so many of them sliding down from the corner of my eyes, along my cheeks, and into the crooks of my ears.
(They were also really, really cold.)
The iciness of the rain was augmented by the strong, driving wind. Depending on the direction I was running, it would whip up against my long sleeve shirt and press the soaked fabric hard against my skin. I kept cramming my thumbs into my fists in an attempt to mute some of the frosty sting that had settled into both digits.
Yet despite all of this (or perhaps even because of this), I actually had a run that was absolutely out of this world.
It didn’t matter that I got sprayed by semi trucks whilst running over the bridge, or that I had “Tunnel Vision” by Tokyo Police Club stuck in my head for the entirety of the run.
I felt fantastic. I felt like I was flying.
(Quick aside and question for all runners reading this: Do you ever get to a place where you sing the same four bars of music over and over again for the entire length of a run? It is a constant in my training life.)
Truly, the only slightly unfortunate thing about the entire experience was when I arrived home and I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror.
Suffice to say that I looked FUCKING CRAZY.
Before I left, I had parted my hair down the middle and then braided it down the length of my back, and tucked my (now grown out) bangs behind my ears. However, between the wind, rain, and general propulsion of my body for 19 kilometers, they had matted and tangled themselves into some sort of insane halo-birds nest mashed atop the crown of my head.
This. This is not a good look.
Marc told me that he hadn’t wanted to say anything due to my elation at the success of the run.
“But yeah,” he said. “You looked totally nuts.”
In the end, I ran 19.3 km in approximately 1:20. I’m chalking this up to my first week of two-a-days, my insatiable craving for Ms. Vickie’s salt-and-vinegar chips, and Yukon Blonde.
Mainly, my concern is such, that at the still relatively young age of thirty, I have become obsessed with how I spend my time in the shower.
And it’s not just that.
I’ve become obsessed with writing about it, and having other people read about these exploits.
This is strange.
I mean, it was only a few weeks ago that I was chronicling my new found love of baths, and now here I am, about to regale you with my new fangled method of showering.
Please bare with me.
(No pun intended.)
This past September I began going to the gym before work. I was having terrible problems with my Achilles and calf muscle in my left leg, and I was sure that running every morning was exacerbating the problem.
Turns out I was only partially right. The majority of my problems were coming from the fact that my anxiety issues were ramped up to eleven, and my body reacts terribly to stress. Anytime my life is shrouded by worry and unease, my system rebels and the first things to go are either my right knee or my left calf.
Anyway, despite the fact that I had previously railed so valiantly against the gym, I gave in and bought a membership to the new Dynamic Fitness at the New Westminster Skytrain station.
I figured that I would go most mornings around 6:30am, work it like a madwoman for thirty minutes, and then shower and head to work.
And I was right! This plan has definitely worked a treat.
Most mornings I arrive between 6:30-6:45am, sprint on the treadmill for ten to fifteen minutes, move through a resistance circuit (mostly push-ups, squats, lunges, ab work, and pull-ups) and then bike as hard as I can for ten minutes to finish-up.
On the weekends I do my long distance runs around the Lower Mainland, and once the afternoons begin to stay lighter for longer, I plan on again running after work.
(My dream is to start a regimen of two-a-days, where I work out in the morning and then run after work. I going to have to really channel my inner Sarah Connor to ever make that a reality.)
Anyways, back to mornings at the gym.
The thing that people fail to tell you about showering and changing at these spaces, is, when you’re operating on a similar schedule to mine, and giving yourself zero time to cool down post-bike, the very last thing you’ll ever want to do is step into a hot shower.
Because it will at best be uncomfortable, and at worst, leave you feeling as though you’re going to die in the excruciating depths of a fiery inferno.
And that really sucks.
So, what is an enterprising girl left to do?
The answer is, as I’ve now discovered, to take blindingly cold showers.
And this is awesome.
So much so that I have pretty much become addicted to them, and cannot even imagine taking a hot shower ever again (workout or no.)
There is something equal parts magical and terror-inducing stepping into the stall, anticipating that first hit of water, just knowing what is coming the second you place your head under the stream.
It’s like all of the air is simultaneously driven from your body and you’re left a sputtering and gasping mess, just trying to force breath in and out of your lungs.
For a person who spent a lot of time growing up imagining whether or not she would have survived the Russian Gulag, these showers give me some kind of weird assurance that maybe, just maybe, I could have hacked it in the Taiga. (Seriously though, this was a huge source of worry to me as both an adolescent and early adult. I mean, for one, I wear glasses. That surely would have signed my death warrant, would it have not? Second, I have never taken the time to properly memorize long poems penned by Pushkin and Gogel and every political prisoner memoire I ever read always detailed at length how important these works were to prisoner survival. How could I ever have made it through long periods of isolation? Obviously I would be hooped.)
What was I talking about?
Beginning my day with both a high-intensity workout and then a blisteringly cold shower has completely changed my outlook on mornings.
For the most part I have more energy, I eat better breakfasts, and I am more alert (especially when it comes to first-thing meetings.)
And I’m not just making this stuff up!
Cold showers are great for circulation, muscle and injury recovery, they (supposedly) aid in weight loss, and they definitely ease stress.
Plus, they make you feel like an epic badass!
This past Saturday I ran 30 kilometers, and despite this insane feat that did a crazy number on my body, I felt great enough to run both yesterday and today.
And while I’m sure that my cold showers aren’t the sole reason behind my quick heal, I do have to give them some credit.
Because if I don’t, I know I’ll just keep writing about them.
And I don’t want this to be the material that you are forced to fall back on when you are shipped off to Baffin Island for forty years of hard labour.
First, please, do not conflate baths with bathing. I think I have committed to the record enough times my utter obsession with cleanliness that there should be no mistake on anyone’s part to that of which I write – however, it is always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to these things, lest I be construed as some sort of horribly unwashed miscreant, who only now, in her thirtieth year, has come to appreciate a good scrub-a-dub.
I have always, always loved to be clean.
What I haven’t always loved is one method to which this purity might be achieved.
Chiefly – baths.
I’ve even written a pair of entries chronicling my distaste for sitting in bathtubs, long waxing eloquent on how easily overheated one becomes just lying there, awash in your own filth and sweat; how horribly hard it is to read in that semi-reclined position, and never really knowing what to do with your hands, as they slowly freeze to death while the rest of your body steams itself alive.
(Honestly, you can imagine how surprised I am that Whirlpool has never scooped me up to do all of their advertising copy writing.)
However, this summer I had a horrible biking accident wherein I almost ran over a four-year old boy, and in my attempt not to take his life, I ended up taking a few years off of mine. I shredded my left arm and leg, and took a very scary knock to my head that once again reinforced my absolute infatuation with my helmet.
Overall, I was left pretty shaken up.
The utter worst of it all was the fact that my skin was not just a grated mess, but one chock-a-block full of gravel and dirt (beautifully mixed in with my literal blood, sweat, and tears) which meant that as soon as I arrived home I was sent straight to the bath to soak my wounds in epsom salts and self-pity.
And how did I ever endure the full-body sting.
But, strange as it might seem, it was that summer afternoon, spent in that incredibly vulnerable position (there really can be nothing more helpless than sitting nude in the bath, your body a kind of delayed sunset – as it slowly changes colours at different times and paces – wracked with pain, and overcome with astonishment at how life can and should never be taken for granted) that I realized with surprise:
“Wow. This is actually kind of pleasant.”
I didn’t really think much of it until two days ago when I arrived home after a very long and very tiring twenty-five kilometer run into Vancouver. Arriving at Granville Island I was a perfect mixture of happiness, awe, and trepidation. The mercury that day was hovering just above freezing, and I knew that I was probably going to get chilled on my way home, no matter how quickly I made it to transit. Just walking to skytrain I had to keep rubbing my hands on the back of my neck, as I could feel the slow sting of the cold creep into each one of my fingers.
On transit I listened to music and cursed Translink – the one time I had hoped for an extra-heated train car seemed to the one time it would not be available.
When I arrived back in New Westminster I spent the last of my energy reserves to run home, sticking to the sunniest sides of the streets, taking short, quick strides, and hoping that my tired muscles wouldn’t balk at the steep hill that marks the way back to our house.
The only thing I could think of the entire time was the piping hot bath (complete with epsom salts) that I was going to take as soon as I walked through the front door.
Two steps into the living room and I was already disrobing, throwing my sweat (and now frost-ridden) clothes into the laundry basket. I turned on the radio in the kitchen, grabbed a fresh towel from the linen closet, and turned on the faucet.
It was all I could do to not climb in then and there (but the cool porcelain of an un-filled tub would probably have killed me) and I was not about to expire after twenty-five kilometers in my recovery bath.
The water was wonderful, and my time in the tub left me feeling light, limber, and completely rejuvenated for the rest of the day. I slept like a baby that night, and the next day was able to run a fast 5k and bike eight.
So it came to nobody’s surprise (myself being nobody here – call me Odysseus just this once) that after this morning’s fog-ridden, freezing run I found myself once again not only sitting square in my bathtub, but reading at that.
I honestly don’t know what to say.
I guess people really do change.
So to everyone whom I resoundingly ridiculed over the last sixteen years of my (now ended) bathlessness – I apologize, and beg of your forgiveness.
I was wrong.
I embrace bathing (in the context of sitting in a bath, by myself, washing my physical and metaphorical wounds.)
But don’t even try me on hot tubs.
I’ll need another fifteen years to even consider them.